No Nose Knows

by Irrespective

Chapter 8: 8. - The Talk

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Bean’s concoction needed celery.

“Celery, celery, celery…” Bean muttered, as he rummaged around the kitchen. “Gotta be some around here somewhere. Premier kitchen of Equestria, and there’s no celery. What’s this? Carrots. Get far in the world with carrots. Apples. I’m not using apples. Stand aside, thou rogues. Your prince demands it! Heh, that’s right. I’ll make a pie out of you some other day, maybe. Ah ha! There you are! Come on, time to be cooked. Fat lot of good you do in here.”

It only took a minute for Bean to reduce the full stalk of celery into the tidbits that his cooking needed, and he took a deep whiff of his concoction while grabbing a spoon and starting to stir. This was one of his finest soups by far, and he felt a twinge of annoyance at his success.

“Mister Bean? Is that you?”

“Good evening, Princess,” he greeted with a quick glance over his shoulder. “And hello to you too, Princess Luna. I hope I didn’t disturb your evening.”

“Of course not, but I didn’t think you would still be up either,” Celestia replied.

“Couldn’t sleep,” he replied. “All the excitement of the day caught up to me, probably. And I finally got hungry.”

“Wasn’t there any soup left from earlier?” Luna asked.

“Too much salt,” he replied, and he looked over his shoulder again to give them a disgusted look. “Your kitchen staff uses way too much salt. It’s almost like they’re paid by the shake.”

“That would explain why Doctor Horsenpfeffer keeps getting after me about my sodium levels,” Celestia remarked, and she peered into the pot. “Minestrone again?”

“Done the right way.”

“Are you sure you’re supposed to be a writer?” She took a deep breath over the simmering pot. “I really think you’re missing your calling.”

“Well, it’s easier to be a writer than a cook when you’re married to Princess Celestia.”

She snickered a bit. “Perhaps. But why do you avoid cooking so much? If this tastes half as good as it smells, you’re going to make Chef Sugar Beet very jealous.”

“It’s complicated,” he said with a sigh before looking up at her. “But you’re probably not going to let me get away with that, are you?”

She shook her head, but with a smile.

Bean sighed again. “I thought not. Well, I guess since we’re married, you deserve to know about my past.

“Baked Bean, as he stands before you this evening, comes from a family steeped in chefs. My dad was a chef, his dad was a chef, and I don’t know how many great-greats on both my mom and dad’s side are chefs. My parents own the Zuerst, the self-proclaimed best restaurant in Salt Lick. They are actually that good, so if you’ve ever visited there, chances are you’ve eaten there.

“This means that Little Baked Bean was obviously raised to be a chef, and to take over the restaurant when he was older. I was taught everything from table placement, presentation, preparation, money management, labor costs to permits. But I learned about cooking from them. Up until I got my cutie mark, my parents immersed me right up to the ears in food. Sometimes, literally. Remind me to tell you about the joys of fresh grape juice from the other end of the process sometime. Anyway, I found out how to distinguish ingredients, how to tell when they’re at the peak of ripeness, how different flavors meld and enhance one another, on and on. Obviously I was somewhat decent at it, and I loved it. Cooking was fun, y’know? It was like a big coloring book for your mouth and nose, really.

“But then the doubts start to come. When I was in first grade, my class was taking turns reading Granny Bakes a Cake, one of those early chapter books foals read.”

Bean’s eyes drifted back to the empty book that adorned his flank. “I remember my cutie mark came while I was reading a section with some added ‘dramatic emphasis.’ I remember I felt something odd and tingly, but it wasn’t until later that I actually saw it. Once one of my classmates pointed it out, we spent the rest of the school day debating what the open book signified, because it didn’t seem to be related to cooking. One filly suggested it was blank because I was supposed to write in it, and that’s really when all the trouble started. She’d unintentionally planted the first seed of doubt.

“Of course, when I got home my dad proclaimed it was a cookbook and that it was blank ‘cause I was going to add all sorts of new recipes to it, so it was easy at first to believe that. I went back to the pots, eager to continue learning.

“Then the first hints of trouble came,” he continued as he stirred his soup idly. “With my cutie mark came the expectation that I be involved more. My parents had me start working the tables, for starters, and if you ever want to make a killing in tips, have a little colt in a tuxedo serve your customers. I don’t know how many times somepony screamed ‘so cute!’ and forked over an extra heap of bits.

“Anyway, I didn’t like serving all that much. It was okay, but there was just something about it that got under my skin. It didn’t help that on busy nights I had the tendency to mix the orders up and serve the wrong thing to the customers.

“Then I was off to actual order prep in the kitchen. That I turned into an unmitigated mess, and I’m not sure how my parents kept the place open with me screwing up so bad.”

“But your cooking here shows you have considerable skill,” Luna cut in. “How could this be a problem?”

“I guess I don’t do well under stress, and I don’t multitask well. Bad combination in a kitchen. You have me do one thing, like make one soup all night, then I’m fine. Ask for five different soups, seven entrees, twelve appetizers and nine desserts and everything goes to Tartarus. Everything just gets jumbled up in my head, and no matter what I try, I just can’t handle it.

“My parents kept me at it, though, and they were both convinced that I just needed one more chance and then I would be able to figure out a system that worked. I lost hope in being able to do the job as time went on, and I drifted into a pretty deep depression. I mean, who can really be happy when they dread having anything to do with their destiny? It’d be a bit like if you hated raising the sun.”

“Well, it is terribly heavy and far too warm,” Celestia casually replied. “So if a lesser alicorn had to work with it, I could see it happening.”

“Oh, whatever!” Luna retorted.

“You’re the one who said it!” Celestia laughed. “How many unicorns did it take to raise it before I came along?”

“The same number it took to raise the moon, you prissy little pony.” Luna grumbled.

Bean briefly wondered if Nightmare Moon was going to make a surprise appearance at that moment.

“Please, continue with your story, Mister Bean.” Celestia waved a hoof at him in encouragement. “Lulu and I do this all the time.”

“You don’t have siblings, do you?” Luna added, and Bean shook his head. “Well, if you did you would know this behavior is normal. You only need to worry if I grow fangs.”

“Oh. Well okay then, I guess,” he replied. “Anyway, I tried, I really did. I took a bunch of college courses, looked over all the Haute Cuisine books my parents have, and I ran myself stupid night after night trying to get it right, but I never could get it. Years rolled by like this, and each year I became more convinced that my flank was a huge lie.

“I think I suffered something like a mental breakdown there at the end.” He paused for a moment to sip the broth of his concoction. “I just… snapped. I don’t remember much of what I did, but apparently I upended the cheese trolley, shoved some tofu blocks in my ears and ran, screaming, from the kitchen through the main dining room and then out the front door. My parents found me later in my room, hiding under the blankets.”

“That sounds familiar,” Luna quipped.

“Probably goes back to foalhood. Monsters can’t get you when you’re under a blanket, right? Everypony knows that.

“Anyway, once they get me out from under the blankets we had a long talk about everything. My Dad tells me I’m having something akin to an existential crisis, and that it’s okay that I am. Both parents think I just haven’t quite ‘found myself’ yet, and that as soon as I do I’ll be as right as rain.

“So, they made me a deal. They tell me to go out and explore the world and see the sights. If I should find something that I am more passionate about than cooking, then I’m under no obligation to them and I’m free to start my new life. But they believed I would find my passion for cooking while I am travelling, and once I do they will be waiting to welcome me back with open arms. Mom gave me a thousand bits for traveling money, and the next morning I’m on a train bound for Vanhoover.

“It was on the train that I really thought things over. I thought about how I had gotten to this point, and why. I contemplated what I might find, and what I could do to earn bits. I spent a lot of time trying to figure out what to do.

“It was in that introspection that I figured out I wanted to be a writer. I don’t know exactly how the notion entered my thick head, but I think I remembered way back to when I got my cutie mark and how I’d been confused even then. I even came up with a ridiculous idea for a novel, one that I’m sure would be an instant flop.

“Anyway, you can guess the rest from there.” He turned his attention to the soup again and gave it a rapid stir. “I arrived in Canterlot the night before our infamous meeting, and I was thinking of going on to Baltimare from here. Of course, that would have depended on if I could get more bits. I only had enough left for a couple of cheap meals.”

“How long did you stay in Vanhoover?” Luna asked.

“Two days, I think? I’ve honestly lost track of where all I’ve been, and for how long.”

“It is a shame you did not stay there longer.”

“Why? ‘Cause I wouldn’t have been in the royal sunflower patch?”

“No. The annual Bits and Spurs rodeo just concluded three days ago. You could have seen some excellent cow ponies showing off their skills. I was there last year and it was quite the show. Didn’t you go the year before, sister?”

“Yes, and it was entertaining. From what I recall, though, I didn’t win any prizes.”

“Why would you?” Bean asked. “Don’t you just sit and watch?”

“If your name is Celestia, yes.” Luna replied smugly. “But if your name is Luna, then you ride a bull named Mark IX for 8 seconds and win the “Best New Wrangler” prize, along with a cash prize of two hundred bits that you generously donate back to the rodeo. I apologized to the bull afterward,” she added. “He was quite the gentlebull about it, and is looking forward to a rematch.”

“I can’t help that you want to act like some kind of wild animal,” Celestia replied with a sniff. “I prefer to maintain my composure and professional demeanor.”

“Says the mare who let her pet phoenix run loose and traumatize a poor Element Bearer during a visit to Ponyville. You’re just more subtle about your pranks is all.”

“I honestly thought Fluttershy knew about Phoenixes!” Celestia let out a muffled snort of laughter. “And then she foalnapped poor Philomena and tried to nurse her back to health! That was just a misunderstanding, nothing more.”

“Right.” Luna deadpanned. “How much longer on that soup, Mister Bean? You have made me hungry again. Is it done?”

“Define ‘done,’” Bean replied. “The celery will still be crunchy, but I think it’s good as is. If you want it softer, then you need to wait a bit.”

“I believe we shall try it. It is always a good idea to take the recommendation of the chef.”

“All right. I hope you’re not too disappointed.” He shrugged and glanced around. “Where are the bowls?”

“I’ll get them,” Celestia remarked. Three fair sized bowls floated out from a nearby cupboard, and Luna’s magic produced three spoons.

“Did I ever mention how jealous I am of unicorns?” Bean muttered, but with a chuckle.

“Why would you be… oh.” Celestia nodded. “I see. But you know you’re probably the chef you are because you’re an earth pony.”

“Yeah, I know,” he chuckled. “Connected to the land and all that.”

“’Tis very noble to be of the earth tribe,” Luna added grandly, as Bean grabbed a nearby ladle and began serving his soup. “My husband was an earth pony as well.”

“Was?” Bean asked.

“He passed away before my banishment, so it has been a long time,” Luna replied. She then sat on the floor as Bean served Celestia. “Though it doesn’t seem that long at times.”

Bean then felt something sweep softly into the room. It was quite unlike anything he’d ever felt before, perhaps akin to the sort of magic that memories brought with them. Whatever it was, it was powerful and it was deep, and he felt like he should be treading very, very carefully in this particular field.

“Look, Princess, if you don’t want to talk about him, I’d completely understand.”

“On the contrary, I would love to tell you about him.”

Bean looked over at Celestia, who nodded to him with a soft smile. “It’s all right, Mister Bean. She would not say that just to be polite.”

“You are family now, so it is fair I should tell you,” Luna continued. “Most of what will happen to you now will come from his time as Prince. He will have quite the influence on your life, whether you want him to or not.”

“All right. What should I know?”

“What do you want to know?” Luna replied.

“I don’t know.” He shrugged, as he began eating. “How did you meet, I guess. Did you boop noses with him too?”

“I did, but it was quite intentional,” she giggled. “I was so madly in love with him it was hard not to until our wedding day. I held out, though, so don’t get any funny ideas.”

“I wouldn’t dare dream of it,” he immediately replied.

“Good. We met at a ball that was being held for the second anniversary of the foundation of Equestria. He was… oh.” She hummed, and tilted her head slightly to put one hoof lightly on her cheek with a serene smile. “He was dark, and tall, and mysterious. I didn’t realize I had a weakness for those types until he came sweeping into the room, all dashing and debonair looking. He cut quite the impressive figure, too. He stood almost as tall as I did, with a dark grey coat and a mane and tail that was so black it almost looked blue in the light.

“We spent nearly the whole night dancing,” Luna continued, as she hugged herself and swayed slightly. “He was so light on his hooves, so sure in his steps. He was a stallion who could be strong when he needed to be but as soft as a rose petal any other time. I’ll never forget the way he caressed my cheek, the way he nipped at my ears. He was the perfect picture of romance, and it really didn’t take long for me to fall in love with him.”

“What was his name?” Bean asked softly.

“Star Struck.” Luna purred out the reply. “Oh, and he always said he was, too. He never let me forget how in awe of me he was. I was his polar star, his guide in the night, his one and only.”

Bean blinked. Perhaps it was just late and his eyes were tired, but was there somepony else sitting beside Luna?

“The two of them were horrible,” Celestia kindly added. “They were like kittens in a way: cute and cuddly but always into mischief. They fed off each other, but they also defended one another fiercely.”

“We were inseparable.” Luna cooed in memory. “I never understood what true love was until I had him as my own. Oh, we had our squabbles at times, all couples do. But he was so devoted to me, so committed to my happiness, that he never let that drive him away. He’d tell me that those times refined him, purified him. They knocked off the rough edges, showed him where he needed to change, and it did the same for me.”

“Why haven’t I heard of him?” Bean asked. There was definitely something next to Luna now, but since Celestia wasn’t saying or doing anything whatever it was probably harmless. In fact, Bean had the feeling it was welcome.

“Oh, he’s in the history. You just have to look for him,” Luna replied thoughtfully. “He did his work quietly, anonymously if possible, and never with the thought of how it would help him. He lived to lift up others, not himself. He,” Luna chuckled lovingly, “he would say often that being married to me was as high as he could ever get, and that he wanted others to have what he had. I learned so much from him, and he from me.”

There was a pause, and Bean felt an overwhelming rush of tranquility and…

He hesitated. The words to describe this feeling were beyond him.

But as he looked at Luna, he knew that, whatever this feeling was, it was the epitome of Love. True Love, Pure Love, and even that only described a fraction of the atmosphere.

This is what every pony hoped could be obtained in a relationship. This was the stuff of legends.

And it was in that marvelous outpouring that he saw.

There was Luna. Not Princess, not Mare in the Moon, not anything but just Luna. She was sitting in a relaxed way, her head tilted to her right and forward slightly. Her hoof went toward her cheek, but it met and slid easily onto the hoof of another.

Bean wasn’t sure how, or even why he was permitted to see this.

But he saw. He saw Luna.

And he saw Star Struck.

He was every bit as handsome as Luna had said and more: well-toned, as sleek as the night sky, and with a mane that was charmingly messy and fluffy. His head was just underneath Luna’s chin, so she was resting along both of his ears. One hoof held hers while it gently caressed her cheek, the other had wrapped around her barrel and was holding her in the softest and most tender hug that could possibly be imagined. His body was pressed closely against her chest, his tail wrapped as tightly as it could around her.

He was as real and as tender as anything Bean had ever experienced in his short little lifetime.

“I can still remember his scent,” Luna whispered, without breaking her embrace with her beloved. “It was always so clean, so pure. I remember the gentle joy that would caress me every time I nuzzled into his mane, and I would repay his kindness with all the kisses he could handle. He always held me so gently, but yet so firmly. He always said he was afraid I was the best dream he’d ever had, and that one day he’d awaken and I would be gone.

“Everything about that stallion was intoxicating. The dew-drop touch of his coat against mine, the ever-so-slight brush of lips he’d tease me with, the way he’d preen my feathers and play with my mane. I couldn’t have found perfection in any other place.”

Bean had to hold back a sob as Luna sighed, dropped her hoof from her cheek and allowed the vision to end. Star Struck faded away as Luna blinked her eyes open and looked right at him. “But I’m sure you don’t want to spend the whole night listening to an old nag talk about her long-gone love.”

Bean slowly shook his head. “You are not an old nag. You are a mare who has loved and lost. I cannot fathom any reason why I would not want to listen. I have no doubt that you had the type of marriage that they write fairy tales about.”

Luna smiled warmly and dipped her head. “I did, but all good things must come to an end eventually. My beloved Star Struck departed this life after eighty-eight years of life. I doubt I’ll ever find his equal.”

“I don’t think you ever will.”

“But it was wonderful to have him for the brief time fate permitted.” Luna paused in thought. “In a way, it still is. But enough about me. Since we are all here, we should probably settle one or two things.”

“Mm!” Celestia grunted, and she quickly swallowed her bite. “Mm, yes. Mister Bean, first things first: by Royal Decree, you are to give the recipe for this minestrone soup to Chef Sugar Beet as soon as possible.”

He snorted out a chuckle. “Take her usual recipe, but reduce the salt by twenty percent.”

“Good.” Celestia smiled a bit more. “Second, I would like to notify Cadence and Shining Armor of what has transpired. I think they would like to know they have a new uncle.”

“That’s gonna be way awkward,” he said with a chuckle. “Aren’t I close to her age?”

“Oh, now you’ve done it,” Luna said with a smirk.


“You said the word.

“’Aren’t’ is not a word,” Celestia replied flatly and with an annoyed look. “Neither is ‘ain’t.’”

“Do not use fake contractions around Teacher,” Luna admonished as she dipped her spoon into her soup. “They drive her crazy.”

“Isn’t it a contraction of are and not?” Bean asked.

“No, it’s not. It’s a fake word,” Celestia instantly retorted.

“I’m pretty extra sure it is a real word. Like, ‘Aren’t you going outside?’”

“I refuse to have this discussion so late at night.”

“Shall I conjure down the dictionary, dear sister?” Luna asked with a coy glance.

“You stay out of this.” Celestia’s stern glare was ignored by mirthful chuckling while eating soup. “As for you, Mister Bean, it appears I will need to give you some elocution lessons. I categorically refuse to allow such foul language in my presence.”

Bean figured it was best to not rile up his new wife anymore, but he did keep snickering at the way her nose wrinkled up when she was annoyed.

“To answer your question, yes. I believe you and Cadence are roughly the same age. However, I don’t think that will be an issue. She is a mature, intelligent mare. She had a changeling queen crash her wedding, so I believe she is able to handle a minor situation such as this.”

“I believe one of the first questions she will ask is when you want to hold a wedding party,” Luna added. “Ain’t no way she will let today be enough.”

Celestia glared extra fiercely at her sister. “You’re not helping, and now I’ve lost track of what I was going to say.”

“I think we’ve already established you’re the forgetful one.”

“Luna.” Celestia grumbled.

“Wasn’t it about announcing the marriage?”

“Yes, thank you. Mister Bean, I believe I told you yesterday that I was not going to make our marriage widely known until we settled all of the arrangements for your life here. However, once we do get that taken care of, I believe we should make the announcement as soon as is practical.”

Bean thought for a moment on this but then nodded. “I think you’re right. It’s always best to be honest, right?”

“As the former element of honesty, that is something I can confirm. So we will keep the news low-key for now but we won’t deny it. I don’t think it will take long to sort out the details with you anyway.”

“What kind of details are there?”

“Mostly little, nit-picky ones. The biggest one is whether or not you outrank Shining Armor. Both Lulu and I are inclined to say you do, since the Crystal Empire is a vassal state to us, but we want to make sure. While we don’t think the issue should ever arise, it’s best to have the rules laid out just in case.”

“Like if some half-baked writer is hiding in a flower patch and you boop his nose?”

Celestia chuckled a bit. “Exactly.”

“We must also consider your names,” Luna added. When she got confused looks from both of them, she happily continued. “There is the custom of taking the husband’s name and titles when marrying. Does that now make you Princess Celestia Bean? Or do you two take a more modern approach, where he takes your name and becomes simply Baked?”

“You would be the one to think of that.” Celestia groaned as Bean laughed.

“I dunno. I kinda like Celestia Bean. Sounds like something I would serve on a Luna Tortilla.”

Luna wrinkled up her nose. “If you just cursed me to be in a relationship with any pony who has ‘tortilla’ as part of their name I am going to hunt you down and make you suffer in horrifically painful but delightfully vague ways.”

“I’m not scared,” Bean replied defiantly. “Celestia will protect me.”

“That’s right.” Celestia took a quick step over and wrapped a wing over him. “No harm shall befall my Bean, not on my watch.”

There was a brief pause as Luna contemplated this ultimatum.

And then all three of them burst out laughing.

Next Chapter: 9. - Mind the Gap, This Way Out Estimated time remaining: 7 Hours, 30 Minutes
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